In honor of first fiction month, we’re highlighting some of our favorite debut novels of the year so far. Here are our top 5 young adult debuts. What’s your favorite debut novel of the year? Comment to weigh in!
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell made her actual fiction debut with her 2011 adult novel, Attachments, but her YA debut is too good not to include on this list. This raw, complex depiction of two teen misfits falling in love in the '80s is at once heartbreaking and searingly hopeful. With a shared love of music and a mountain of hurdles to overcome, Eleanor and Park's love story is just the right amount of awkward and magical.
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
H.G. Wells gets the teen treatment with this entertaining adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau. The story, as told by the doctor's daughter, 16-year-old Juliet, doesn't tone anything down for younger readers. Gothic horror and Victorian romance blend masterfully here, and the gruesome scientific experiments are so creepy that animal-loving Shepherd had trouble writing them.
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
In 13-year-old Habo's home country of Tanzania, a person with albinism is called a zeruzeru, meaning "zero-zero." He has always been an outcast, but he now faces a greater threat: He is being hunted for his body parts, as many believe his light skin will bring them luck. Sullivan's depiction of this growing East African human rights issue is at times horrifying, but she writes beautifully of the landscape and of Habo's strong spirit in the face of such monstrous injustice.
The Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin
No punches get pulled in this story set during a freezing Maine winter. Fifteen-year-old Dinah is innocent and endlessly positive, but her best friend Skint, who has stopped wearing a coat for some reason and whose father suffers from early-onset senility, is exactly the opposite. This heart-wrenching, thoughtful tale is sad, for sure, but Griffin speckles the novel with flashes of humor and warm personality.
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
This dazzling story of two Iranian girls in love sensitively approaching issues rarely—if ever—addressed in YA literature. In Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death, but gender reassignment surgery is generally accepted. So when Sahar discovers that her best friend and the girl she loves is to be married, she contemplates the surgery as her only option. Farizan tells this important, compassionate story with immense grace. On sale 8/20. Look for a review in our September issue!